Babesiosis is a condition spread by ticks that can be seen in dogs across the US. If your pooch has been bitten by a tick carrying Babesia organisms they can be transferred to your pet where they will begin to attack your dog's red blood cells. Here our Huntersville vets explain more about Babesiosis in dogs.
Babesiosis in Dogs
Babesiosis is a disease caused by a family of Babesia organisms that are seen across the world and spread to animals through the bite of infected ticks. Once inside your dog's body, these organisms invade and attack your pup's red blood cells, often leading to anemia. Babesia canis and Babesia gibsoni are the two most common varieties of Babesia infections see in dogs across the US.
How Dogs Catch Babesiosis
Babesiosis is most often contracted through the bite of an infected tick, however, dogs infected with Babesiosis that have open mouth sores can pass on the infection to other dogs through a bite. It is also possible for pregnant females to transmit Babesiosis to their unborn puppies.
Symptoms of Babesiosis in Dogs
Chronic Babesia can be asymptomatic in dogs (no obvious symptoms), but it's important to understand that even when symptoms are not apparent the dog can spread the disease to other animals or even to people.
If your pooch does contract Babesiosis the symptoms that your dog develops will depend on the type of Babesia organism that has infected your pet. Some of the most common symptoms of acute Babesiosis include jaundice, weakness and fever.
How Babesia Infections Are Diagnosed
When you take your dog in for an examination, your vet will perform a thorough examination checking your pup for signs of Babesiosis such as swollen lymph nodes, pale mucous membranes, and an enlarged spleen.
If a Babesia infection is suspected your vet might recommend blood and urine tests to check for the presence of bilirubinuria as well as signs of anemia, low platelet count, and low albumin.
Babesia organisms can sometimes be seen by doing a simple blood smear, however, diagnostic testing may be required such as fluorescent antibody staining, indirect, immunofluorescence (IFAT), ELISA tests, and PCR (polymerase chain reaction) testing.
Because different strains of Babesia infections require different treatments, your veterinarian might recommend Babesia DNA testing to determine which strain of the organism has infected your pet.
Treatment For Babesiosis in Dogs
Babesiosis treatment in dogs is typically a 3 pronged approach.
- Antiprotozoal medications can be prescribed to help eliminate the parasite from your pet's bloodstream.
- Blood transfusions may be used to treat anemia in dogs.
- Further supportive treatments such as oxygen therapy (to treat respiratory issues), or anti-nausea medication (to help prevent vomiting), will be prescribed to address your pup's symptoms.
Depending on the strain of Babesia your pooch is infected with Imidocarb dipropionate injections may also be recommended. A combination of atovaquone (a quinone antimicrobial medication) and azithromycin (antibiotic) is typically used to treat Babesia gibsoni infections in dogs.
Prognosis For Dogs with Babesiosis
The prognosis for dogs with Babesiosis is generally guarded. Most cases of the condition are not caught until the disease is fairly progressed, meaning that treatment is also late to begin. How well your dog recovers from the condition will depend upon the severity of the condition and which systems of the body are affected by the disease.
It is not unusual for dogs to recover from an initial Babesia infection but remain infected (although asymptomatic), then experience a relapse. That's why it's important for dog owners to be aware that dogs with chronic, symptom-free, or very mild symptom infections are still able to spread the disease.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.